For Warren G. Harding's swimming program, coach Steve Lukco and his athletes aim for nothing less than success.
That means shooting for the Division I state swim meet at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton during late February.
"I feel our team will be successful this season because we have assembled a great group of quality young adults with a great work ethic and the desire to be the best," Lukco said. "We have a nice mix of returning experience and fresh new talent that is meshing well. Our senior leaders are showing the younger swimmers the right way to do things and our previous success is rubbing off on the newcomers. The old adage that success breeds success is hopefully taking hold here and our swimmers will be consistently some of the best swimmers in the state."
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Warren G. Harding senior Sam Angelo swims in his lane during the 200-meter individual medley. Angelo and a handful of Raiders are setting their sights on state this season.
The Raiders' boys team took two relays to state last year - 200-yard medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.
Graduated are Kieran Hernon and Vaughn Deuble, but Dylan Thirion (sophomore), Sam Angelo (senior) and Zackary Williams (junior) return as part of the two relays.
Lukco is looking to Angelo to pace this year's WGH team.
"Senior Sam Angelo leads our team and has an excellent chance of making the state meet in the 100 breaststroke as well as being a member of the 200 medley relay team that went to Canton last year," Lukco said. "The 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays should be contenders for another trip to Canton this year. Sam's tireless work ethic and great leadership skills make him an excellent team captain and top contender to go to the state meet in Canton."
The Raiders also have a top diver as well in junior Corey Butts, who missed going to state by two places last season.
"Corey has been working harder than ever diving through the summer and has a great shot at going to Canton this February," Lukco said. "Corey's work ethic and leadership skills are the main reason he is the other boys team captain."
Williams has been working hard as well.
"Zack is a leading member of the returning 200 free relay team that went to Canton last year and also has a great shot at making the state meet in the 50 freestyle," Lukco said. "Zack has really stepped it up this year and is working harder than he ever has. His hard work should pay off this year with some really fast swims."
Meanwhile, Thirion is not in a sophomore slump, Lukco said. He just missed placing in both of his individual events last season.
"He was one place away from going to Canton in both the 100 and 200 freestyle events last year," Lukco said. "Dylan's work ethic and strong swimming skills are the main reason he has an excellent chance at making the state meet individually as well as helping to lead both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays back to Canton."
On the girls side, sophomore Emily Thirion is pacing WGH - barely missing the cut for state.
"Emily's strong swimming skills and enthusiastic demeanor give her another stellar chance at making the state meet this season," Lukco said. "Emily has been working extremely hard in preparing for her quest for Canton and she has a great chance at making the cut."
Meanwhile, freshman Mike Miller is cruising along with his performances early this season.
"Mike has a very good chance to make districts and is a member of both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays, both relays have very realistic chances of going to the state meet," Lukco said. "Mike has been working very hard - harder than he has ever worked and it is already paying off for him and our program. We also have three or four more freshman and sophomores that should contribute heavily to our program's success once they realize what hard work in the pool can do."
And, there are two boys transferred from John F. Kennedy and two from Lakeview.
"They, along with the five transfers from last year (two transfers from Howland, two from Lakeview, one from Newton Falls) are proving that we are providing a quality educational experience for young adults in our area as well as quality athletic programs," Lukco said. "Our facilities are state of the art and we are trying to provide a program worthy of the tradition of Warren athletics, in particular swimming."
Some swimmers who come to the Raiders program started with the Warren Harding Aquatics Team, a member club of USA Swimming.
"(It) has been a very valuable resource for the Warren City Schools swimming teams," Lukco said. "WHAT provides kids a chance to learn how to swim or advance their current skill level. The WHAT group has four levels: learn to swim, beginners, intermediate and advanced. We have kids as young as 4 and as old as 18. The swimmers that come to our Warren City Schools teams from the WHAT program are well ahead of any other brand new swimmers that are trying to make the varsity team. The quality of our newer and younger swimmers joining the WGH program is a direct result of participation in the WHAT program. WHAT swims year round and gives quality instruction to kids wanting to become better swimmers. Out of our 28 current varsity kids, half of them have been involved in the WHAT program on their way up to the high school level. They are all excellent swimmers who contribute to the WGH program."